The Wild Atlantic Way

4 - 25 June 2024

Lucca to Siena
A guided destination ride with Alison Testroete, Presidentessa of the Lucca Cycling Club
21 June 2023

Alison's Guided Destination Ride from Lucca to Siena should be on every cyclist's bucket list. It offers challenges and rewards in equal measure, combining some testing climbs with several beautiful sweeping descents. As you ride, you are immersed in a countryside that continually presents you with striking vistas: vistas you will simply not see had you tried to plan this ride yourself. From early morning silhouettes of the mountains around Lucca, to almost aerial views of the golden fields of Tuscany, to the view of Siena on the last descent that you won't get on a normal approach road. That view provides great motivation for the final, unforgettable climb to the centre of Siena. Throughout the ride, Alison makes sure you ride at a tempo that ensures you complete the course, complementing her excellent advice to fit an 11/32 cassette and compact chainrings before you set off. Chapeau, Alison, on a truly memorable ride.

Photo credit: Alison Testroete.

Photo credit: Alison Testroete.

Riding the Strade Bianche (video speed x 2)

Coasting through Ghizzano (video speed x 2)

The final climb up Via Santa Caterina to the centre of Siena

Photo credit: Alison Testroete.

Here are the final metres of the climb on Google Street View.

My love of cycling began in a small bike shop in Cork, Ireland, many years ago. Here, according to GCN, is the best bike shop in the world: Wolfi's Bike Shop in Dubai.


I bought my Storck Fascenario in Wolfi's in 2009 and, 14 years and many kilometers later, it needed a new crank set. Even though they no longer sell Storck bikes, they still had one in stock. I hadn't been back to Wolfi's in several years and everything had changed, except the warm welcome and ultimate professionalism.
The photo above says it all. Thank you, Gaby (right), for the gift. Also, see how Wolfi's supported me on the African GLO Tour below.

The African GLO Tour

In 2018, I took part in a seven-day challenge to cycle around Rwanda in aid of Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, struggling to recover from civil war and genocide. You can see the route, watch the videos, and read all about it on my Africa GLO Tour 2018 video blog.

The ride covered 777 km with a total ascent of 14500 metres. Rwanda is called the Land of a Thousand Hills with good reason. It was organized by GLO, a remarkable charity devoted to helping the people of Burundi.

Thanks to the amazing generosity of some 138 supporters, I raised approx. $16,000 and the whole group of fourteen cyclist raised over $90,000. If you would like to make a donation, please follow this link to a Just Giving account where you can find out more about Burundi, the work being done by the organizers of the ride, GLO. I paid all costs myself so everything you donate will go to the Burundi fund.

Please remember that any donation - even $10 / €10 - will make a difference so please consider giving something.

Bike for Burundi - Please Sponsor Me!

Here are the details of the ride.

Saturday 26th May, Kigali - Musanze - 102km; 1890m ascent.
Sunday 27th May, Musanze - Gisenyi - 64km; 732m ascent.
Monday 28th May, Gisenyi to Gitarama - 144km; 2835m ascent.
Tuesday 29th May, Gitarama to Kibuye - 80km; 1402m ascent.
Wednesday 30th May, Kibuye to Cyangugu - 118km; 2591m ascent.
Thursday 31st June, Cyangugu to Butare - 145km; 3353m ascent.
Friday 1st June, Butare to Kigali - 128km; 1981m ascent.

In total, the ride covered approx. 770km and 14500m ascent over seven days.

Words of encouragement at the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour 2010

One of the most remarkable features of the Cape Argus - a sportive around the Cape Town peninsula that attracts more than 30,000 cyclists annually - is the huge number of spectators who line the route from very early on, shouting encouragment while they enjoy a braai with music blaring from their sound systems. "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba provided great motivation on the last climb up Suikerbossie and it has been my personal anthem ever since.

Listen ...

Cycling Weekly featured a great article on riding the Cape Argus.

Getting ready for the Vätternrundan sportive in 2013.

Four Engima Ti bikes in Dubai: Ian Smith's (left), mine (centre), and Neil Bathe's (right). The fourth Enigma belongs to Hedly, who took the photo after the Bab al Shams Coffee Ride in January 2014.

Cycling in Dublin, 2011

Up and Down: riding the Etape du Tour in 2012.

I took up road cycling in 2008 and in 2012 I achieved a long-term goal: to complete the Etape du Tour, a stage of the Tour de France which amateur cyclists ride a few days before the professionals. This year it was a 152km stage with 4700m of climbing over four cols (Madeleine, Glandon, Croix de Fer, Mollard) in the French Alps, finishing in the ski resort of La Toussuire.

I rode La Marmotte in 2014. This is one of the oldest and most famous sportives in Europe over a 174km route with an ascent totalling 5180m. The major climbs are the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and then a final ascent of the 21 hairpin bends of Alpe d'Huez. I just about beat the broom wagon home. I rode the 2014 edition of the Vätternrundan as part of my training but it was clearly not enough to achieve a good time.

Crossing the finish line at the 2010 Etape Hibernia!

I am fortunate enough to have two bikes: a carbon Storck Fascenario and a titanium Enigma Excel, both with Campagnolo Super Record 11 groupsets. Both bikes are a joy to ride, each offering very different handling characteristics. I wear a new Catlike Whisper Plus helmet after my old one almost certainly saved my life in an accident in December 2009. It's my most important piece of biking kit.